Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah Saturday sought an immediate probe into the Army’s “serious misgivings and concerns” over the construction on land bought by top BJP leaders next to an ammunition depot in Nagrota in Jammu.
The Indian Express reported in its Saturday edition that Lt Gen Saranjeet Singh, Corps Commander of the Army’s 16 Corps, had written to state assembly Speaker Nirmal Singh asking him to stop the construction, which he said violated a string of laws, and had “implications on the security of a major ammunition storage facility as well as the safety of all personnel living in close vicinity…”
Nirmal Singh had rejected the “politically motivated” opposition to the construction, which he said was “the Army’s view”, which was not binding on him. The land in question belongs to Himgiri Infrastructure Pvt Ltd, a company owned by BJP leaders including Nirmal Singh and Deputy Chief Minister Kavinder Gupta.
Omar Abdullah said he had heard about BJP leaders buying land at throwaway prices, but “We didn’t know that the Army was opposing it because it is a security risk”. After the land was purchased, an “IIT, IIM, and a zoo were conveniently set up there by the government, close to this place”, Omar alleged. “BJP is so keen on CBI inquiries, so why not a CBI inquiry into this then?” he asked.
“Of course, this is sheer conflict of interest. This company is owned by BJP leaders, and the Army says their activities (on this land) are a security risk.” Also, Nirmal Singh was power minister, and was running a power company (Himgiri). “It is clear conflict of interest,” Omar said.
However, he did not expect any action on this issue, because the PDP-BJP government “isn’t bothered”, Omar said. “The BJP absolves (Chief Minister) Mehbooba Mufti of all her misgovernance and the CM absolves BJP of this sort of activity. It is a very cozy partnership that’s why the CM’s brother called them partners in crime… This is it, this is what he meant. In Kashmir, the crime is in blood and in Jammu the crime is in land and money,” Omar said.
The former chief minister was referring to an interview given by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s brother, Tourism Minister Tassaduq Mufti, to The Indian Express, in which he said the PDP and BJP had “ended up being partners in a crime (for which) an entire generation of Kashmiris might have to pay with their blood”.
Referring to the Army’s concerns over the construction, Omar said: “The truth is that had these (Nirmal Singh and Kavinder Gupta) been Kashmir-based politicians, and the Army had said this about us in the Valley, BJP people would have been screaming from the skies.”
“They (the BJP) have a different set of rules for others and a different set of rules for themselves. For anybody else to criticise the Army is a crime, but they can accuse the Army of harassing people,” Omar said, referring to Nirmal Singh’s reaction to the Army’s opposition to the “illegal” construction of his house in close proximity to the ammunition depot.
“The BJP needs to check what its people are doing, and officially the government needs to step in. The government needs to take into consideration the misgivings and the apprehensions the Army has put on record. This is a clear conflict of interest. A group of BJP leaders and ministers have come together and formed a company and are involved in business that is directly linked to their portfolios. It is what the chief minister needs to answer for,” Omar said.
State Congress president Ghulam Ahmad Mir accused the BJP of having double standards. “This is their way (of doing things),” Mir told The Indian Express. “When they seek votes, they have one policy, and when they are in power, they have a completely different policy.”
On Nirmal Singh’s allegation that people were harassed by the Army, Mir said: “When society, people accuse the Army of killing innocents somewhere, they don’t see that. And today his person has been affected, when his personal interests are under attack, they have started to say the Army is bad.”
Independent legislator Engineer Rashid said: “If the most powerful man of Sangh Parivar is facing harassment at the hands of the Army, what could be the fate of the common man in J&K? Whenever Kashmiris allege harassment and brutalities by the Army, they are labelled as anti-nationals and Pakistani agents. Now when Dr Nirmal Singh, who has also been the deputy chief minister of the state, is claiming harassment at the hands of the Army, not only the state government, but the Army too must come out with the facts without delay.”